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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The global chess game linking Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Iran nuclear deal

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Who wants what in the current geopolitical turmoil

Russia has tried to use its support for reviving the Iran nuclear deal as leverage to minimize sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

Overlapping diplomatic crises have drawn nations from around the world with a variety of complicated relationships and agendas.

Here’s what each of the main players wants from each other and why.

United States

The Biden administration desperately wants to revive the so-called JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) nuclear deal with Iran, which Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.

That would see sanctions lifted against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

For the US, it would mean that Iranian oil is back on the market as the energy crisis caused by sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine unfolds.

The United States is “continuing to engage” with Russia on the Iran deal despite the Ukraine war, according to the officials.

However, he has made it clear that he will not accede to Russian demands that he be allowed to continue a full trade and investment relationship with ally Iran.

Instead, it will allow Russia to continue to provide equipment to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, as the original 2015 Iran nuclear deal allowed.

UK and Europe

The UK, France and Germany, the so-called E3, have been working hard to restore the nuclear deal with the “utmost urgency” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

They have accused Moscow of trying to exploit the nuclear deal negotiations in Vienna to escape some sanctions imposed on Ukraine, “risking the collapse of the [Iran] treatment.”

Sanctions on Russian oil leave an energy gap to fill, so E3 is eager to see the return of Iranian oil following the establishment of a new nuclear deal.

Boris Johnson also wants to hold talks with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as he seeks to end the West’s “addiction” to Russian oil and gas.

That effort is being coordinated with the US.


On Tuesday, Sergey Lavrov met in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart and ally, Hossein Amirabdollahian.

Lavrov said it was not true that Moscow was blocking efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal and that the final points were being “polished”.

He also said he had received “written assurances” from the United States that sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine would not hamper cooperation under the Iran deal, allowing Russia to continue nuclear business with Iran.

Russia’s closeness to Iran seemed to have helped smooth things over for the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to demand “security guarantees” from Europe and the United States against NATO’s eastward expansion.


Tehran is eager for sanctions to be lifted with a revived nuclear deal, which would allow it to massively boost oil exports.

That would happen at a time when its ally Russia cannot export to the European countries that have sanctioned it over Ukraine.

Iran could fill the void for those countries.

He has defended Russia on the nuclear deal saying Moscow “has not caused any obstruction” and will continue to play a “very positive and constructive role”.

However, Iran is also interested in US assurances that a future US president will not withdraw from a revived nuclear deal.

In a related development, Iran on Wednesday released two British-Iranians, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri, who had been held by Tehran for six and five years, respectively.

His fate had been linked to an outstanding debt of £400 million contracted by the United Kingdom. On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK resolved it in a way that complied with UK and international sanctions.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia is suddenly very popular as Western countries grapple with a lack of Russian energy.

In addition to Johnson’s visit, Biden wants the kingdom to extract more oil and keep the world price low.

However, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, which Biden has called a “pariah”, are at a low point.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, America’s close ally, have been pushing the United States for a new Middle East security strategy involving more missile defense and intelligence sharing.

They believe that if the Iran deal is revived, Tehran could use its increased oil revenues to fund violent groups across the Middle East.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani is speaking to everyone.

He spoke with his Iranian counterpart on Saturday and then with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

He is expected to be in Moscow on Sunday to discuss both the nuclear deal and Ukraine with Lavrov.

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